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    #11

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Without an explicit reference, then I would assume it meant the current state of science. If it referred to when science got it wrong, as it did with eugenics, then it should specify it.
    Did masters of "modern natural philosophy" seek immortality?

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    #12

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    It refers to the views of modern natural philosophers, the scientists who seek immortality. The narrator finds their views distasteful or repugnant.
    But it seems more probable that medieval alchemists, rather than modern natural philosophers, sought immortality. I really suspect that's an error on Shelley's part.

    The order in which the information is presented in the original is confusing to me. I'd have expected the passage to begin with a description of what medieval alchemists used to pursue, followed by the claim that things were different now, and finally a description of what modern scientists aimed to do. Do you find the following version more clearly organized?

    Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. In the heyday of alchemy, the masters sought immortality and power; their goals, although futile, were grand. But now it was different. The ambition of the enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 30-Jun-2020 at 07:36.

  3. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #13

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    But it seems more probable that medieval alchemists, rather than modern natural philosophers, sought immortality. I really suspect that's an error on Shelley's part. . . .
    Keep in mind a few things:

    1. Although the sun was setting on natural philosophy, it was still practiced well into the nineteenth century.

    2. The narrator says modern to draw a distinction between bygone and contemporary natural philosophers. The complaint is about those of Frankenstein's day — not about Aristotle and company.

    3. By the nineteenth century, the fashion was shifting to a less spiritual, more mechanical veiw of nature. So in Shelley's day, natural philosophers were throw-backs and eccentrics — perfect models for a mad scientist in a gothic mansion.

    So the line makes sense. The narrator's complaint isn't about ancient alchemists. It's about dangerous kooks of the narrator's day.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 30-Jun-2020 at 11:49.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #14

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    I think, in the book, modern natural philosophy is equated with the modern science of that time. Did scientists in that era seek immortality?

    Even assuming that "the science" refers to modern natural philosophy, the real puzzle about the original is the placement of "It was very different, when . . ." In the sense of "things were different," it is felicitous only when a state of affairs has already been mentioned to provide a basis for comparison. We say, for example, "John loves dogs very much. But things were different when he was a young boy. He used to believe dogs were vicious animals." The underlined sentence is the basis for comparison, without which "things were different" would make no sense.

    What is the basis for comparison in Mary Shelley's original?
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 30-Jun-2020 at 13:35.

  5. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #15

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    I think, in the book, modern natural philosophy is equated with the modern science of that time.

    Sure, that would work. It would just mean the narrator is suspicious of contemporary scientists in general.


    Did scientists in that era seek immortality?

    You'll have to do some research there.


    Even assuming that "the science" refers to modern natural philosophy, the real puzzle about the original is the placement of "It was very different, when . . ." In the sense of "things were different," it is felicitous only when a state of affairs has already been mentioned to provide a basis for comparison. We say, for example, "John loves dogs very much. But things were different when he was a young boy. He used to believe dogs were vicious animals." The underlined sentence is the basis for comparison, without which "things were different" would make no sense.

    It makes sense to me. Life was different then. The world was different then. Things were different then. It was different then.

    I don't see a need to try to read more into it than that.


    What is the basis for comparison in Mary Shelley's original?

    I don't know.
    For what it's worth, these are minor points. I don't think the exact meaning of this passage will change your understanding or enjoyment of the book.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #16

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    I think, in the book, modern natural philosophy is equated with the modern science of that time. Did scientists in that era seek immortality?
    It's a work of fiction.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #17

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    "Things were different" or "It was different" makes sense only when a state of affairs has been mentioned as a prerequisite for its use.

    In the original, the only possible prerequisite for "it was very different" is "I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy." If so, the "it was very different, when . . ." serves as an escape clause, as it were, to "I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy." In other words, it means the narrator had no contempt for modern natural philosophy when its practicioners were seeking immortality.

    All other interpretations are bizarre as far as the placement of "It was very different, when . . ." is concerned.
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 01-Jul-2020 at 02:56.

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    #18

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    Did masters of "modern natural philosophy" seek immortality?
    Unlikely- they should have known the limits of science. Frankenstein was trying to rewrite the laws of science.

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    #19

    Re: It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and pow

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    "Things were different" or "It was different" makes sense only when a state of affairs has been mentioned as a prerequisite for its use.

    In the original, the only possible prerequisite for "it was very different" is "I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy." If so, the "it was very different, when . . ." serves as an escape clause, as it were, to "I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy." In other words, it means the narrator had no contempt for modern natural philosophy when its practicioners were seeking immortality.

    All other interpretations are bizarre as far as the placement of "It was very different, when . . ." is concerned.
    I'm reading it as "The situation was very different, when." It then goes on to describe that situation.

    But I'm not insisting that I'm reading it right. You've gotten a lot of smart, reasonable interpretations from the crew here to pick from. As mentioned above, written English was more convoluted then — the more convoluted, the better. When Robert Louis Stevenson came along, he got terrible reviews for writing too clearly and (gasp) getting to the point too quickly. Where were the three pages describing what the squire was wearing? Gone! Yet he dared call himself a writer!

    What seemed elegant and sophisticated then is often simply confusing or ambiguous now. That's part of the fun of reading it.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 02-Jul-2020 at 21:15.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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